#3 Is that yours?

Blog #3

Copyright is challenging with technology today. Why?

What makes it difficult to follow copyright laws?

  • There is often no trace back to the real author, which makes getting permission difficult. Once one link in the chain is broken, getting back to the original takes some searching.
  • Creative commons is great, but for students it becomes another format they have to learn. The full attribution is something I myself have never done simply because I didn’t do my research yet – if you’re ready to do yours, see HERE.

What is Creative Commons anyways?

As I understand from their explanation HERE under General License Information, Creative Commons simply allows those with work that would normally exist under copyright laws to give different permissions for the usage of their work. And they warn readers that there isn’t just one:

“it is important to identify which of the six licenses you are applying to your material, which of the six licenses has been applied to material that you intend to use, and in both cases the specific version.”

What about public domain?

In cases where items are old enough, then it becomes part of the public domain. Yet, this is not always cut and dried, as some places might still consider that there is a piece of work that should receive attribution. Do you want to do your research? HERE

Overall, the main challenge is to stop being lazy and stop giving excuses. We generally know what the right thing to do is, but we choose not to do it. In the fast-paced world of today, it is easy to excuse to ourselves that everything is open for our use, right here, right now.

Well, how to solve it?

A solution for helping myself as the teacher, and my students, become more aware would be to provide them an opportunity to contribute to the Creative Commons to get to know the intricacies of copyright laws. They could do this easily due to the amount of photo they take with their smartphones. Presentations, art work, songs they write and record, podcasts, or anything they create for class could become Creative Commons.

But part of me is of the idea to follow along with making everything free and open. If it is something valuable and beneficial, then why claim it as my own. Surely, I can’t be the first one to have done something like this.


Source: Doug Belshaw


Using infographics…

When I prepared my course outlines for the year, I realized that the heavy text was probably not something most of the parents were going to read. It definitely wasn’t something the students were going to read.

So, how to get the information across in a quick and easy way?


While it limits how much information can be included, it also requires you to be short and clear about what the class is about, what your expectations are, and any other details that get lost in all of the words.

Here is a revision of a course syllabus using piktochart.com:

new-piktochart (1)

#4 A round table discussion


round - samuel zeller.jpg

Blog #4

As a new teacher, I am learning about designing lessons that inspire the students to learn through themselves. One layout for lessons that I find effective is inspired by the 5E model, which was created by a group of teachers in Colorado (see the 5E model from BSCS  for more details). Here’s a lesson that I would like to have another chance at improving – which is perhaps why I will say it is my favorite for now. It stands out enough in terms of its potential to inspire the students to take action and apply what we learn to something in their lives.


The end goal is to have students sit around in a Harkness Table inspired activity to come up with actions they could do that might affect the biodiversity in their communities. The Harkness Table idea contrasts with what I have done in the past with the students for whole class discussions, which have been more debate oriented. But for this topic of Threats to Biodiversity, I wanted to give students an opportunity to collaborate together rather than compete with their knowledge. From what I have experimented so far, the key to a Harkness table is to give the students the responsibility for the conversation and the teacher steps into the background.

In the previous class, students finished energy in ecosystems, understanding the structure of food chains, and recognizing that when one link in the chain disappears it has an effect on other elements. First thing in this class (aka Engage), the students became familiar with biodiversity, and the value of biodiversity to humans, by watching a video. After, students defined the values we saw in the diversity of our own classroom, school, and larger communities. Students worked in pairs and in their notebooks, and afterwards shared with the whole class. The idea is that once students can see the value, then they hopefully have the motivation to find out the aspects threatening biodiversity.

The next phase of the lesson, they gathered facts and information regarding acid rain, pollution, and habitat destruction as key factors from their online textbook. I often structure these as scavenger hunts, finding different important key elements that will help them answer questions.

We finished the class with the Harkness Table activity. This was the first time doing a Harkness table for me and for them, so I wanted to support the students as much as possible. The students came to sit in the middle of the room in a circle, and formed groups of three. From here, they had about ten minutes to brainstorm answers to the questions that I posted on the projector. I asked for the students to identify the activities they do daily that might be a part of the Threats to Biodiversity they explored about in the online textbook lesson. In addition, I asked them to brainstorm three ways they could change something in order to reduce the threats. I asked them to keep it simple, and something each could do with little effort. In their groups of three, one person was responsible for reporting, and the other two were there to support. Everyone was engaged in coming up with ideas.

As it was the first time that I did the lesson, I didn’t anticipate the timing of the lesson well, and we had to go in a circle to gather everyone’s opinions rather than letting the conversation flow more naturally. I was surprised at the leadership that some of the students show in the activity, taking on the role of an interviewer of the other groups in order to keep the flow. It would need some serious revision to due justice to the potential of a true Harkness Table. For example, I would break it up into separate lessons so they have more time to prepare for the topic. I would make the Harkness Table the center point of the lesson and give them more time to discuss with their groups; perhaps, allowing them a chance to switch roles, so the ones supporting could have a chance to do the reporting as well. I would also need evaluation built in for the students to assess each other and their own participation and ability to meet the objectives.


Lesson: Threats to Biodiversity, 6th grade, Life Science

Objectives: Students will be able to:

  • identify causes of loss in biodiversity in ecosystems
  • design solutions to address the causes of biodiversity loss

Cross Cutting Concept (NGSS): Small changes in one part of a system might cause large changes in another part.

Learn more about the Harkness Table HERE. (Initiated at Exeter, it has been used around the world.)


Image Credit: Samuel Zeller at Unsplash.com

#7 Something I’d like to say…

Post# 7

The opportunity that we have as teachers is indispensable. The duty that we have is essential. Yet how often do we forget the view point of it as true opportunity and just see a paycheck, or a daily task, or a requirement that must be fulfilled?

On the one hand, there are all the things that have to be done. There are all the rules that must be followed. There are the unpleasant elements to any work. However, those are the byproducts of something else. In truth, there is a much more precious action taking place. Students – small (or big), young (or old), influential human beings are looking to teachers as examples, as models for how to live life.

So, what am I doing? What am I focusing on?

After my first year teaching, this is probably the question that stands out most in my mind. It is the one that all other questions lead to. How can I do more for my students, and focus less on myself?

In a recent exploration of copyright laws for a previous post, I came across some interesting conversations from another blog (HERE). The woman shared her frustration at being copied blatantly and never being given credit for the work she did. Someone else simply passed of her work as their own. One man commented in reply to her that it is about ethics.


What am I doing that teaches my students how to be ethical in their daily choices? What are the other habits that I am teaching them that are beyond what they learn about relating to content? Even the skills they learn according to the standards are tasks that they could learn and carry out quickly if only they had the inspiration and attention to learn. So, really, am I here to walk them through the process of writing a lab report, or am I here to help them navigate the difficulties of leading a life in this world?

It is so easy to get lost in the content, to get lost in the routine, to get lost in my own poor habits. Then what I show every day is an adult who is lost. So, what do the students learn from me? Well, I hope that some might learn from my mistakes. But I imagine that many probably are used to copying without thinking about what they are doing. Does it sound familiar to what they do with assignments? If they do it with something small, then their habit to do it with something big is likely.

Probably the most important tool I have learned so far in the Media Course for my Masters degree is the power of reminding myself that I must hold myself accountable first and foremost with everything I expect my students to do.

If I think about how I learned, well it isn’t too far off from how I teach. And do I want my students to have the same life that I do? Or do I want better for them? I think, just as I have seen my own parents and parents of others, we wish for them to have a life that is better than ours.




So, how will I teach something that is different? How will I not get lost into a hole of meaningless routine?

I write this post as a reminder to myself, as a letter to myself in the future at all moments that I forget how important this “work” is.


Photo Credit on this page:

Apple – Tim Mossholder

Fall – Gratisography.com

Tree – Sean Brown


#5 Purpose can inspire our design


Image Source: RYAN MCGUIRE at gratisography.com

Post #5

More and more in the classroom I am trying to establish the connections between the subjects I teach and other subjects, or incorporate a real life application. But how can students apply what they learn when they are confined by the four walls of a classroom? Imagination and simulation works to an extent, but there are limitations.

In the article, The Classroom is Obsolete: It’s time for Something New, the author Prakash Nair gives the foundations on which classrooms of this generation should be built on. He calls for us to re frame the way that we think of classrooms, which have been stuck in the industrial revolution design. Nair claims that the structure has determined the function of the schools – when it really should be the other way around. We should be aware of our purpose, then design the spaces of learning accordingly.

This element of our environment determining our learning goes even deeper. Not only can it restrict the way that we learn, but it influences our emotions towards learning as well. The space is building habits in our students, and training them to think and behave in certain ways. I am sure that almost every teacher probably feels the same as their students, limited by the environment and aware of the habits students develop as a result. They want to find a way out.


For one week, I didn’t have chairs in my classroom. I used this opportunity to restructure how we used the space. It felt invigorating to have the space more open. We were able to use the walls differently, the windows, and the center of the room. Mainly, I didn’t feel the students were locked in their chairs and had to stay there. I believe that after growing up in the classroom, it isn’t easy as a teacher to imagine something different. I think that perhaps it is not just up to the developers, such as people like Nair who authored the article linked above; authority and responsibility should be given to the students as well as opportunities to design their own learning spaces. I think they would all raise their hands in agreement that they wouldn’t sit inside at desks, in their small boxes, all day. And they might also agree that this is not what constitutes learning.

Our environment in the classroom isolates us from the ability to collaborate and reach into other subject areas. From the idea of “my desk”, “my chair”, and so on probably even helps isolate us even more. As teachers we have “our room”, unless the space is shared with others. But it still becomes a room learning for that subject. Then how are the kids supposed to bring what they learned in the classroom out into their lives. They thing it belongs in that “room”. I would stress that learning online is going to change the game more than we imagine in the next ten years. Perhaps we will end up with disregarding the “classroom” all together. We should be proponents of “the world is your classroom”.

Explore more? I am interested in the science side that is exploring the idea that our environment can be embedded into our DNA – it’s called Epigenetics. I am learning more about it, starting HERE. Could it be that our environment can change our genes?


What do you think? Are your experiences the same?

If anyone has a successful experience with a redesign in their classroom, I would like to hear about it below.

Adding copyright elements in a syllabus


It is important that as a teacher to develop skills in producing materials that are setting an example for proper use of copyrighted materials. Working on this addition to my syllabus has increased my awareness, and would be a good model for helping students to do their own research about the topic.

Here is an example of a syllabus I used last year. Now I have adapted it as I begin to understand about copyright and plagiarism.


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6A LS Course Outline

6A syllabus

6A syllabus 2


Sources of Copyright Information for Educators:

Educationworld.com – Copyright and Fair Use

Media Hub from University of Rhode Island

Teaching Village – Sue Lyon-Jones